February 14, 2008 / 9:44 PM / 12 years ago

Syria says will prove who killed Hezbollah leader

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Syria will soon present "irrefutable" proof of who was behind the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Moughniyah, the foreign minister said on Thursday, hinting that Israel was responsible for the attack.

"As a state, we will irrefutably prove the party involved in this crime and who stands behind it. An investigation is ongoing," Walid al-Moualem told reporters.

"We hope that you will soon hear the results of this mighty effort," Moualem said after meeting his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, who came from Beirut where he attended Moughniyah’s funeral.

Asked whether Tuesday’s killing in a district of the Syrian capital swarming with security would undermine chances for peace with Israel, Moualem said the assassination killed "any effort to revive the peace process".

"Whoever wants peace does not commit terrorism, whoever wants peace does not lay siege to Gaza with a million and half Palestinians struggling for the minimum to survive," he said.

Moughniyah’s car was towed away from the scene of the explosion in Kfrar Souseh district an hour after a bomb tore it apart and killed the enigmatic Hezbollah military leader.

A man thought to be Moughniyah was seen coming out of one of the buildings alone and getting into the car before the explosion, witnesses said.

Moualem declined to say whether the authorities have apprehended anyone in connection with the attack or whether there had been a breach in the huge security apparatus of tightly controlled Syria.

"I cannot comment to preserve the secrecy of the investigation. The fighter Imad Moughniyah was the target of lots of intelligence agencies. He was a backbone of the Islamic resistance," he said.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Israel killed Moughniyah, who was wanted by Washington. The Jewish state denied the accusation, although its intelligence division had sought to kill him.

Western countries accuse Syria of being the main weapons supply route for Hezbollah, in contravention of a United Nations resolution. Syria says no weapons cross its territory bound to the Shi’ite group, which is also supported by Iran.

Syria, however, participated in the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis peace conference in November and renewed its offer to Israel for normal relations in return for the Golan Heights, which the Jewish State occupied in 1967.

Washington has since stepped up pressure on the Damascus government and announced this week preparations to expand financial sanctions against Syrian officials and their associates.

Moualem said Syria will respond "in kind" to the latest U.S. escalation. He did not elaborate. (Editing by Dominic Evans)

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